And I've barely gone anywhere! We're just here, sitting in the capital, waiting for our Thai visas to be ready. And instead of being ready to go back to Thailand, my heart wants to travel farther into Laos and see what it's really like.
We are low on funds and low on energy for travel (seeing as we have a two day drive ahead of us, just to get back) so we didn't do it this time. We realize there are limits to what we can ask of our children. But one day... For sure.
If Bangkok is the ultra modern teenage version of a South East Asian capital, Vientiane is its old auntie. Beautiful, still caught a little in post-colonialism, with big trees and shady streets. Vientiane is quiet, calm. She's let herself go a little. She's not sleek, but she's lovely. I'm reminded of Panjim, the capital of Goa.
Laos was colonized by the French, so everywhere you look there are French restaurants and baguettes. In fact, I'm willing to believe that the most influential thing the colonialists left behind in various spots in Asia was bread. In Goa, the Portuguese rolls, Pao, that are a staple of Marathi and Goan food now. In Laos, baguettes.
I'm not thinking of baguettes, however, because Laotian food is divine. Why waste time on French food when you can have a mung bean shake or the most divine fried rice you've ever tasted? Or bamboo stalks that taste a lot like asparagus, and the list goes on. And I feel like I've barely scratched the surface. But it's already time to go.
Chinua and the kids even ordered something on the menu called "Ginger Frog." And they ate it. (Even YaYa!) And liked it. I couldn't do it. I'm a long way from my nineteen-year-old cockroach eating self, friends. You can find frog in Pai. Not on most menus, though.
The people here are lovely and soft-hearted. One woman let out a shriek of delight as she saw our kids walking along the street. "Sabaidee!" you hear everywhere. It's a greeting, but I think it more literally means "How's it going?" Poor Solo has just learned Sawadee Krap in Thai... and when people speak to him in the Laos language, he answers them in Thai. Which may be like being called American when you're Canadian. But they love him anyways. It's got to be confusing for the poor guy. He can't tell that we've crossed a border.